Monday, December 05, 2005

Public Diplomacy You Can Walk Around In


While most people are spending their time defining public diplomacy on paper, USC's Center on Public Diplomacy has challenged game-makers to create a gaming environment that simulates public diplomacy in some way:

The challenge to the game mod community, and current and aspiring game designers is as follows: design a prototype or modify a game incorporating the fundamental characteristics of public diplomacy.

What comes to mind when you think of diplomacy? Some ideas include cross-cultural communication, conflict negotiation, shared goals, and international exchange of knowledge. For more on our definition of public diplomacy, please visit our website.

Now incorporate that into a game or virtual world. How? That's for you to decide.

Center executive director Joshua Fouts was inspired by playing a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG), a Washington Post article says:

... Fouts and Douglas Thomas, the organizers of that school's contest, have discussed the project with State Department officials and hope to get a policymaker on their judging panel. The contest winner will be announced on the eve of a video game industry conference in Los Angeles next year.

The two said their contest was inspired by playing and exploring the virtual world of an online game called Star Wars Galaxies, which lets players around the world log on and participate in the universe of the "Star Wars" movies. They found that many players from other countries had a negative view of Americans, an impression that sometimes became more positive as they played cooperatively with players based in the United States.

"It's a virtual exchange program," said Fouts, who worked at Voice of America for six years before becoming the director of USC's Center on Public Diplomacy.

The biggest challenge for programmers entering the contest might be one that policymakers and activists have never had to think about: The game will have to be fun. After all, the loftiest and most educational game in the world won't have much positive result if nobody plays it.

The contest deadline is set for just prior to next year's E3 in Los Angeles, if I'm not mistaken. Gamers, start your mods. ...

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